Florida is seeing a rise in the number of migrants from Cuba and Haiti arriving by boat. The Miami sector of U.S. Customs and Border Protection has reported a 400% increase in migrant encounters since October.
Dry Tortugas National Park, which is about 70 miles west of Key West, temporarily closed this week after more than 300 migrants made 10 landings there.
"Like elsewhere in the Florida Keys, the park has recently seen an increase in people arriving by boat from Cuba and landing on the islands of Dry Tortugas National Park," the National Park Service said on New Year's Day.
U.S. Coast Guard video has shown agents encountering people on rafts or crowded boats taking on water. Even cruise ships have stopped to rescue asylum seekers at sea.
The rise comes as President Biden announced a revamped migration management strategy that will allow up to 30,000 migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti with U.S.-based financial sponsors to enter the country legally each month. Those who enter the U.S. illegally may be expelled to Mexico under Title 42, a public health law that was first invoked by the Trump administration in early 2020.
Many Cubans say they are fleeing political persecution at the hands of the communist government and also an economy that has gone from bad to worse. Haitians are fleeing their homeland as the country descends further into chaos, gang violence and poverty.
Leonie Hermantin, a Haitian activist with the community resource group Sant La, said migrants do not risk their lives unless what they are leaving behind is worse than death.
"When your country does not provide you with the safety, the security, and staying in there is worse than death, then, as they say, they'd rather go with the dangers of the sea," she said.
For many, however, the journey ends in deportation and a return to the country and conditions they fled.
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